Attention critics, bloggers, and pundits! If you are putting together your own Best of 2009 list and need to be reminded which of your favorite Fantagraphics releases were released this year, by all means use our complete and up-to-date 2009 Releases section as your guide. And then when your list is posted we will include it in a future installment of Online Commentary & Diversions such as below:
• List: At Chicago Now, Marissa Meli names her top 8 Worthiest Comics and Graphic Novels of 2009; at #8: "Besides having a title worthy of naming your hipster band after, You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! was way before its time; a freak-out in the middle of the white bread Golden Age. ... With a magical space wizard, the Leopard Women of Venus, and Zomax, the Demonized Marine Scientist on your shelf, you may not buy another comic book."
• Review: "...[The Great Anti-War Cartoons] offer[s]... a feast of great early 20th century illustration. There are a few recognizable names here, like Winsor McCay and Art Young, but a number of great discoveries as well..." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "[Weathercraft] is a wordless story about strange creatures in a strange world. ... With an open mind you are sucked into a surreal world that is both a dream and a nightmare of geometric chickens, tornadoes of eyes, harp-playing frogs... It is an immense mental gut-punch. 6 out of 6 stars" – Lærke Pickering Thomasen, Geek Culture (translated from Danish)
• Review: It's rare for me to editorialize here, but I found Alan Bisbort's comments on The Wolverton Bible in the Hartford Advocate to be seemingly disregardful of the actual contents of the book
• Review:The Hooded Ultilitarian's critical roundtable of Ghost World continues, this time with guest writer Charles Reece: "If I’m correctly following ˇi˛ek’s Lacanese, this wide-scale commercial co-optation of not just the aesthetic Sublime, but pretty much anything that once gave off a sense of 'authenticity,' has resulted in our no longer being able to identify ourselves in relation to these (formerly) Master Signifiers."
• Plug: At Comics Alliance, Douglas Wolk declares Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons "Your high-end gift item of the week... It's extraordinarily nicely designed (by Jacob Covey) — three hardcover, full-color volumes in a slipcase with a few other ingenious design fillips inspired by the macabre comedy of Wilson's cartoons."
• List:Details magazine names Ghost World #10 on The 25 Greatest Gen X Books of All Time: "This caustically funny duo-tone tale follows the iconic cat-eyed adolescent Enid Coleslaw in her quest to find meaning, or at least cruel humor, in an age where everything's disposable."
• Review: "Strange Suspense collects dozens of Ditko stories from the 1950’s... Almost a decade before Ditko moved to Marvel, these stories bear his unmistakable style. His fine line work and flair for the abstract that would serve him so well on Doctor Strange particularly, is on full display. ... If you only know Ditko for his work at Marvel or later at DC, here is the chance to explore Early Ditko, unconstrained by editors or the Comics Code. While all of this work is marvelous, clearly Ditko is best at home in horror where he could let his imagination run wild, creating monsters and demons and the things that go bump in the night. Rediscover Ditko today!" – Tim Janson, Newsarama
• Review: "Brian Kane, author of the [Definitive Prince Valiant] Companion and surely the world’s foremost authority on the strip and its creator, Hal Foster, has once again done a herculean amount of work, and Fantagraphics has once again clothed that work in a sturdy, pretty volume. Prince Valiant hasn’t been treated this well since the ersatz King of England sang his praises. Those unfamiliar with the character – a young man who finds adventure, fame, and even love at the court of the legendary King Arthur – will find here all the background information they could ever want... But even long-time Prince Valiant fans will find plenty to fascinate them in this volume." – Khalid Ponte, Open Letters
• Review: "Delphine is a morbid interpretation of the symbology of fairy tales resounding with echoes of unrequited love and abandonment. This is perhaps Sala’s darkest and most intricate story ever – impressive in its nuance and ever shifting emotions. One can only hope that it is not ignored." – Ng Suat Tong, The Comics Journal
• Interview: From TCJ.com: "Every weekday from now until December 25, we’ll be posting a conversation between cartoonists from The Comics Journal #300, complete and online! In today’s installment, it’s a chat between L’Association publisher Jean-Christophe Menu and Kramers Ergot publisher Sammy Harkham."
The latest cartoon artist to get the t-shirt treatment from streetwear giant Stüssy (following the likes of Jaime Hernandez & Peter Bagge): Basil Wolverton! There's a big feature with an interview with Basil's son Monte right on the Stüssy website right now (no permanent link, though, since it's all Flash-based). Found via Tee Shirt Blog (en Français). Totally tubular!
• Review: "[Gilbert] Hernandez's latest solo work The Troublemakers is the second in a series of self-contained graphic novel 'B-movies,' featuring one of his recurring characters, the cannonball-breasted Rosalba 'Fritz' Martinez. Here, Fritz plays Nala, one of a trio of hustlers trying to hook up with 200,000 smackers. Whether the money actually exists and who has it are anyone's guess in this drama-filled thriller — good for folks who like their graphic novels grim, gritty, and sleazy." – Brad Buckner, Portland Mercury
• Review: "Strange Suspense [The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1]... is an absolute treat! ...[T]his book looks amazing. ...[It's] filled with images that will remain seared into your psyche long after you’ve put it down. ... Strange Suspense is an absolute must have for any student of sequential art history... It’s an excellent collection of long lost work from a man whose importance cannot be overstated. There’s really no other grade to give it than an A." – Chad Derdowski, Mania.com
• Review: "Wolverton is helped [in The Wolverton Bible]... by his bold compositional sense, which aids in pushing some of his images beyond the doldrums of camp and into a certain monumentality, a grandeur that retains a shabby earthiness, without being lofty, hollow or pretentious. Without being, in a word, 'churchy.'" – Chris Lanier, The Comics Journal (beta)
• Review: "Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit is probably as close as comics are likely to come to exploitation cinema. Like the best exploitation dreck from Texas Chainsaw to Death Race 2000, Prison Pit is pure, bottom-dwelling schlock... And yet, again as with exploitation fare, the single-minded commitment to vileness is so perversely pure that it goes right past lowest-common-denominator entertainment and on into snooty, fancy-pants art. ... Ryan’s world is essentially Waiting for Godot, from the bleak landscape to the slapstick violence." – Noah Berlatsky, The Comics Journal (beta)
• Review: "Although the five stories in Low Moon appear to have very little in common, the glue that holds them together is Jason’s sublime artwork, a clear line approach inspired by Hergé (and dozens of other influences), and the artist’s consistent application of certain stylistic techniques and visual tropes. ... He is an artist who understands the mechanics and timing of visual storytelling, and his highly simplified style has a grace and elegance that makes it aesthetically appealing." – Marc Sobel, The Comics Journal (beta)
• Review: "Both stories [in The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book] see Dave and Paul get involved in vaguely shady -- but entirely weird -- dealings. These are basically stoner crime stories, with Dave and Paul as relative innocents who get caught up in hallucinogenic toad trafficking, or secret microwave generators that destroy wetlands. Daly doesn't rely too heavily on stoner humor, thankfully... Daly keeps these as stories about stoners rather than as stoner stories -- this isn't the way Dave would tell the story (thankfully); it makes more sense than that." – Andrew Wheeler
• Plugs: Newsarama 's Michael C. Lorah waxes rhapsodic about our February 2010 offerings as listed in the current issue of Previews: "An otherwise slow month for me is almost single-handedly blasted beyond budgetary means by Fantagraphics’ bevy of offerings..."
• Plugs: At Comics Alliance, Douglas Wolk weighs in on The Comics Journal #300 ("a thick, fascinating volume of cartoonists from different generations talking to each other... Great stuff") and Popeye Vol. 4: "Plunder Island" ("a fantastic long adventure with some phenomenal character design -- Alice the Goon is one of the creepiest-looking creatures ever to grace the funny pages")
FANTAGRAPHICS & EDITOR GREG SADOWSKI PARTNER ON SIX NEW BOOK COLLECTIONS OF CLASSIC COMIC BOOK MATERIAL
Fantagraphics Books is proud to announce that it has struck a deal with comics historian and editor Greg Sadowski to produce six new collections of classic comic book material for the Seattle publisher. Sadowski is a Harvey and Eisner Award-nominated editor who has previously overseen the publication of the acclaimed collections SUPERMEN: THE FIRST WAVE OF COMIC BOOK HEROES 1936-1941, as well as B. KRIGSTEINand B. KRIGSTEIN COMICS. He is a former staff editor and designer for Fantagraphics Books and currently works freelance from his home on San Juan Island in Washington State's Puget Sound.
"Greg has written one of the landmark cartoonist biographies (and only the first half yet!) with B. Krigstein, and the collections of comics from the '40s and '50s that he's edited for us — B. Krigstein Comics and Supermen!, to date — have been meticulously assembled, with an eye toward selection, flow, and accompanying historical text. We're pleased that he's got such an ambitious agenda ahead," says Fantagraphics Publisher Gary Groth, who acquired the books.
The books will be released one per season, beginning with FOUR COLOR FEAR: FORGOTTEN HORROR COMICS OF THE 1950s in June 2010 and produced in collaboration with comics historian John Benson (SQUA TRONT). The second book, due in Fall 2010, will be a collection of legendary artist Alex Toth's work for Standard Comics in the 1950s. The remaining books will be release in subsequent seasons, with exact schedules to be announced. The full list of books follows after the jump below.
• Review: "[The Squirrel Machine is a] darkly disturbing, brilliantly drawn story... B&W pen and ink drawings elucidate complex machines and Victorian-era architecture in baroque detail, while surrealist imaginings take turns for the truly repugnant. Sexual perversion, putrefaction and serial-killer style artworks are all ornately portrayed, as are the buildings, shops, horse-drawn carriages and crumbling mansions of a 19th-century small town. The story, while told primarily in pictures, includes a stilted and formal dialogue that only adds to the perversity. ... Though not for the faint of heart, this obscure tale will offer rich rewards to the right kind of reader, one who appreciates grotesque horror, angry mobs and the creative explosion of a repressed Victorian sexuality." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "In this memoir [Giraffes in My Hair], [Bruce] Paley openly shares his stories of the '60s and '70s, and by the end you'll feel like he's a long-lost uncle. ... At some point, this book will probably become a movie, but I suggest you check out the uncensored version with [Carol] Swain's great artwork, which sets the scene perfectly. It's a miracle Paley survived to tell these anecdotes, but I'm glad he did." – Whitney Matheson, USA Today Pop Candy
• Profile: Joe Heller, editorial cartoonist for the Green Bay Post-Gazette, talks to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Tirdad Derakhshani in a syndicated article about the influence of Prince Valiant ("The release of Prince Valiant, Vol. 1: 1937-1938, the first in a new series of gorgeously printed, hardcover Valiant collections from Fantagraphics Books, served as a bittersweet reminder of the century-long rise and eventual decline of a great American art form, the comic strip"), with accompanying video
• Onomatopœia: Stephen Worth at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive Project Blog presents a great Basil Wolverton rarity: an article Wolverton wrote for the Daily Oregonian in 1948 titled "Acoustics in the Comics." Learn the difference between "SCHALAMPF!" and "PFWUMPFPH!" (It's a re-run, but still worth a look)
• Things to see: Is Steven Weissman (a) prepping for Halloween, (b) inventing a new superhero, or (c) hoping to get cast on the next season of Project Runway? Whatever it is, I like it
Some major comics writing out there over the holiday weekend making for an extra-beefy (and late) Online Commentary & Diversions update:
•Review/Profile: "Sure I'd read [Hal] Foster before, but I'd never found a way in. Fortunately, Fantagraphics recently released Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-38, and I was able to absorb the material in a wholly new way.... I found this first book completely engrossing. Prince Valiant opens up a world that I wanted to stay in -- a wide-eyed early 20th century approach to fantasy with a now-vanished sincerity and wholesomeness. It's an all too rare pleasure in comics." - Dan Nadel, Comics Comics
• Review: "Medieval swordplay and adventure have never been as glorious as in Foster's Sunday-only comic strip. Although much reprinted (including an earlier version from the same publisher), this edition has been reproduced from pristine printer's proofs to give the gorgeous artwork its crispest version ever.... Foster's script is literate and full of vivid characterizations, like the headstrong but cunning Val and carefree Sir Gawain. But nothing surpasses his artwork—rich with details of armor, weapons and dress, the story comes to life with a palpable sense of magic and danger. Each drawing is a flawless illustration, perfectly composed; even a battle of 20 men comes alive in a tiny panel, with every action clearly delineated. Prince Valiant is one of the best-drawn comics ever, and this new edition does ample justice to its achievement." - Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "Underneath the screaming and plagues, the giddy joy that [Basil Wolverton] seems to take in his art radiates off the page, just like it does in his secular work.... His creatures from sci-fi and horror, his fascination with grotesque bodily exaggeration, his devout Christian faith -- here it all comes together into an operatic and apocalyptic peak.... The Wolverton Bible might seem like a paradox to its religious audience and its alt-comics fans -- even if Wolverton himself never saw the contradiction." - Martyn Pedler, Bookslut
• Review: "As an historical object, sure, great. I think it should be in print. Kurtzman was a very important figure in comics, and the art and design of the pieces here are of an exceedingly high quality. I'm glad I can see more examples of Jaffee's, Elder's and Davis' work." Otherwise, Chris Allen gives up on Humbug
• Review: Joe McCulloch of Jog - The Blog has a major review of Tardi & Manchette's West Coast Blues -- I've read through it three times and it's too complex for a simple pull quote
• History/preview/profile/analysis: "The 300th issue of The Comics Journal is soon to hit the stands, and the magazine everyone in comics loves to hate rattles on, chugging and sputtering and picking up disreputable beardy guys like a Toonerville Trolley of spite.... In some Inglourious Basterds-like alternate history, the 1990s ended with the twisted faces of Kim Thompson and Gary Groth hovering, laughing maniacally, over the charred and bullet-riddled corpse of Wizard magazine." - Shaenon K. Garrity, comiXology
• Analysis: du9 presents a new translation by Derik Badman of a 2006 piece by David Turgeon on Poison River by Gilbert Hernandez: "What first strikes the reader about this work is its narrative density. It isn’t uncommon for a single page to show as many places, times, and situations as there are panels." (Via Journalista)
• Interview: Jason Thibault of Optimum Wound talks to Tim Lane as part of their "Masters of Ink" series: "You do what seems the impossible and most absurd: you learn to breathe underwater, and revel in it. Get drunk on the water in your lungs. Cultivate a functional level of positive insanity. And develop tough skin. Stick with it if only because your reasons are inexplicable."
• Interview: The Daily Cross Hatch wraps up presenting Brian Heater's chat with Jordan Crane: "I was in Portugal and I saw a really tiny kid with a really giant cat. He looked exactly like the kid in The Clouds Above. The kid was so small that the cat was the same size as him — it’s not a big cat, but next to him, he was huge. And then I just kind of went from there."
• Plug: At Super I.T.C.H., Steven Johnston takes note of Humbug ("much of it is prime satire from the creators of MAD!") and The Wolverton Bible ("particularly including some genuinely horrific scenes from the Book of Revelations").